Mostly Original Script And Short Run Time Make Speak No Evil Worth At Least One Watch

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Forty-five years ago writer/director George A. Romero and co-writer John A. Russo brought to the world a little horror flick titled Night of the Living Dead. At the time that Romero ad Russo’s movie debuted few if any studios at any level were putting out horror movies of its ilk. In the decades since its debut, it has gone on to become the model for almost every horror writer and director out there. It has also gone on to be the seed for what has become one of the most popular sub-genres of the horror realm if not the most popular. Countless zombie knockoffs have been churned out in theaters ever since. And AMC’s comic book based zombie serial The Walking Dead has become one of the biggest shows on television today. With so many different zombie-centric movies and TV shows out there, it leaves one wondering how the industry can keep the success of the zombie sub-genre going without letting it get stale. Lionsgate presented one potential answer late in 2014 when it released the indie-horror flick Speak No Evil. It is quite obvious in watching Speak No Evil that it is an independent flick. But it is still a piece that is worth at least one watch by anyone that has any interest in or love of zombie flicks. The main reason for it being worth at least one watch is its story. Rather than turning adults into flesh-eating zombies, it’s the kids’ turn to take on that mantle. Adding to the interest is the fact that it is all the result of a biblical-era demon awakening from its slumber. It actually puts an interesting little twist on the far too oft used plotlines for previous zombie flicks and TV shows. And while the story itself makes the movie worth the watch, it isn’t without its flaws. The major issue with the writing comes in its continuity. The story has a tendency to jump from point to point throughout its roughly seventy-four minute run time. This proves to be somewhat problematic as it does bear the possibility of losing audiences along the way. Luckily it isn’t so problematic that it ruins the movie. That’s at least the case for those that can overlook this issue and try to keep track of everything going on. The story’s pacing is another issue that weighs down the movie. While it does keep audiences engaged, it also proves to be its own con, too. That’s because as fast as the story moves, coupled with the continuity issues, it is possible to leave audiences feeling just as lost as the continuity issues alone. And then there is the issue of the movie’s cinematography. It is just as jumpy at times as the scene transitions. All three issues together show that Speak No Evil is anything but perfect. It isn’t the worst horror flick ever released. But it also could have been better. Of course for all of the negatives found in Speak No Evil, it isn’t without its positives. One more positive that can be noted of this indie horror flick is its run time. The movie’s run time is roughly seventy-four minutes. That’s counting credits. Not counting its end credits, it clocks in at barely more than an hour. Being that its run time is so short relatively speaking, the issues that do arise throughout the movie are minimized enough to make the movie bearable and worth at least one watch. The end result in considering this is a movie that while anything but perfect deserves at least some credit for trying.

Speak No Evil is an interesting addition to the zombie world. The reason being that it isn’t necessarily the standard flick about flesh-eating zombies that audiences have seen again and again from so many other scripts. Rather than just being another one of those cookie cutter flicks, single-named writer/director Roze has crafted a story in this movie’s script that turns the attention to a younger group of individuals. He turns said younger individuals into the zombies instead of their older, adult counterparts in the case of this movie. Even more interesting is that in assembling his script, Roze has created an original way in which the children are turned into zombies. Rather than it just be some virus spread by victims being bitten, Roze’s script sees the children being turned into evil, blood-thirsty zombies by an equally evil, biblical-era demon. The demon in question wants nothing more than to cause the adults to kill the children by their own hands. Of course that does happen to a certain extent as audiences will see. It’s disturbing to say the least. But Roze is to be commended for going this route. The reason that he should be commended is the message that lies beneath it all. No parent ever wants to see harm come to their child. Yet great harm has in fact come to them. And it has led the adults in the movie’s small southwest town to do the absolutely unthinkable in order to save the town’s population. It makes for a rather interesting discussion starting point in watching this movie. If for no reason other than for Roze having taken such an original route in crafting his story, it makes Speak No Evil worth at least one watch.

The story behind Speak No Evil is in itself plenty of reason for audiences to watch this indie horror at least once. As interesting as the story makes the movie’s overall presentation, there are some obvious issues with the movie in whole that cannot be ignored. One of those issues is the movie’s continuity. Single-named writer/director Roze has crafted a script for this movie that has a severe tendency to jump around at points without any clear and concise transitions. This leaves a great possibility of losing audiences along the way. As prevalent as it is, throughout the movie’s roughly seventy-four minute run time, it is not so much of an issue that it would kill the movie altogether. That’s at least the case for anyone that can overlook this issue. So whatever script Roze works next, he should most definitely take this into consideration. In the same vein, the movie’s pacing proves to be just as much a con as a pro. The story’s pacing keeps the movie running and in turn helps to keep audiences from being too badly distracted by the script’s continuity issues. At the same time though, the pacing is just as problematic as it is positive. That is because coupled with the story’s continuity problems, it can in fact leave viewers feeling lost. It all depends on the viewer. Viewers that can manage to look past the issues of continuity and pacing are still faced with the issue of cinematography in this movie. The movie’s cinematography is just as much a problem as the pacing and continuity. That is because it works in tandem with those issues at a near breakneck speed. It’s enough to sometimes leave audiences feeling not just lost but dizzy, too. Sadly all three of these cons together take a lot away from the movie. Thankfully though, the movie’s run time makes up for that. Just like its largely original plot, the movie’s run time works to its benefit, making for at least one more reason for audiences to watch it at least once.

There is a lot to say in regards to the issues that weigh down Speak No Evil. That is obvious in the discussion noted above. For all of the issues that rise in watching this indie horror flick, they aren’t enough to make the movie completely unwatchable. That is thanks primarily to the movie’s mostly original plot. The movie’s run time is just as much to thank for its ability to keep audiences watching even despite its problems. The movie’s total run time comes in at roughly seventy-four minutes. That is counting its end credits. Sans credits, it comes in at barely more than an hour. It comes in at about an hour and maybe five minutes. So it really isn’t that long of a movie. Because it isn’t that long, the problems that do come up don’t occur so much so that they do major damage to the movie’s enjoyment. Coupled with the positive side of the movie’s pacing and its largely original plot, that run time makes the movie that much more bearable even with just a single watch. The end result of that mostly original plot and the movie’s relatively short run time is a presentation that despite its blatant issues that is worth at least one watch by any lover of both the horror realm and its zombie sub-genre.

Speak No Evil is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from Lionsgate’s online store at More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:



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Sci-Fi Fans and ET Enthusiasts Alike Will Enjoy In Search Of Aliens Season 1

Courtesy:  A&E Home Video/Lionsgate/History/H2

Courtesy: A&E Home Video/Lionsgate/History/H2

History Channel and H2’s hit sci-fi/history hybrid series Ancient Aliens has proven to be quite the hit among audiences ever since it debuted in 2009. Since that time, it has gone on to run seven seasons and is currently in the midst of its eighth full season on H2. The success of that series led to the premiere of a spinoff in the form of Searching For Aliens last summer. Since not everybody has access to H2, History Channel and A&E Home Video made available to audiences the full first season of In Search of Aliens on DVD last month. The three disc season set is a good addition to the library of any sci-fi fan and even any true believer. The central reason that it is a welcome addition to said audiences’ libraries is its episodes. The episodes that make up the series’ first season both throw back to the topics covered in Ancient Aliens and introduce new topics. And while some of host Girogio Tsoukalos’ theories seem somewhat far-fetched, others make at least a certain amount of sense. To that extent, the theories and arguments raised in each episode aren’t just the standard “oh it’s got to be aliens” argument. Though, Tsoukalos does always find a way to argue that every mystery is answered by alien intervention. And last of note in this box set is are the graphic illustrations used to help explain each of Tsoukalos’ theories. While they don’t necessarily do anything to convince skeptics, they do help to illustrate Tsoukalos’ theories. And that makes each of this season’s episodes all the more watchable. All three factors together show exactly why In Search of Aliens Season One is a welcome addition to the collection of any sci-fi fan and alien enthusiast.

At first glance, one might assume that History and H2’s new extraterrestrial series In Search of Aliens is just a rehashing of Ancient Aliens. But any viewer that gives it a chance will note that In Search of Aliens is in fact not that. There are episodes that seem familiar since their subject mater was already discussed in previous episodes of Ancient Aliens. But there are also episodes that feature subject matter that was not handled in the aforementioned series, too. That is the central aspect of In Search of Aliens Season One that audiences will appreciate. The series re-visits the mystery of the Nazca lines, the alleged alien influence on America’s founding, and the Nazis’ attempt at time travel in its first season. It also goes into more depth, examining the potential link between alien life and some of the world’s most legendary creatures in Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. There is also an examination into what is known as “The Roswell Rock.” The rock in question is a magnetized stone that was allegedly left behind by the military at the site of the infamous Roswell UFO crash site. This episode especially is certain to create discussion as it is shown just how easily the raised symbol on the rock could have been man-made. The examination of what makes the rock a natural magnet is even more interesting. On one side, it could easily argued that it just happened to be a natural phenomenon that someone found and used to carve the formation that appears on it. There are naturally occurring items such as “The Roswell Rock” out there. So it is sure to keep create its own share of discussion alongside the other episodes included in this season’s set. Whether it be for that single episode, any of the others or all of them together, the fact that these episodes balance familiar theories with less familiar theories is reason enough for any sci-fi fan and UFO enthusiast to check out In Search of Aliens Season One.

The mix of old and new theories that make up the whole of In Search Of Aliens Season One is within itself plenty of reason for ay sci-fi fan and UFO enthusiast to check out this box set. The arguments expounded by host Giorgio Tsoukalos make for another reason for audiences to check out this collection of episodes. Given, some of his theories seem far-fetched. But others do leave some room for thought. Many of his arguments are made through interviews with “experts” in specific fields related to each topic. In the case of the legendary Nazca lines, his interview with a construction expert reveals how the iconic “mountaintop landing strip” would have entailed countless blast operations, paving and much more over the course of two to three decades at least. Considering that and what looks obviously like a modern set of airport runways, one can’t deny that the possibility of something other than humans was responsible for its construction. On the other hand, the episode centered on “The Roswell Rock” leaves plenty of room for doubt. It is shown just how easy it would have been re-create the symbol on the rock. What’s more, if the man who owned the rock came out as having it, wouldn’t the government have come in and taken it at some point? Even more worth noting is that naturally occurring items such as the magnetic rock have been found around the world. So for Tsoukalos to just say, “oh it’s alien, I don’t care what anyone says!” is a bit close-minded. The theories and arguments raised in Season One’s other episodes are sure to generate their own share of discussion. The discussion in question coupled with Tsoukalos’ theories and arguments show even more why any sci-fi fan and UFO enthusiast will appreciate the first season of In Search of Aliens.

The episodes that make up the first season of In Search of Aliens and the theories and arguments therein make for plenty of reason for sci-fi fans and UFO enthusiasts alike to check out this recently released box set. While the theories and arguments raised in each episode help move the episodes along, the video and graphic illustrations used to ground each theory and argument play theory own part in the episodes’ enjoyment. In the case of the episode centering on the Nazi time travel experiment, audiences are presented the sight of the experiments. There is also footage showing Tsoukalos with a group of scientists who test the bell-shaped craft allegedly created by the Nazis for their time travel experiments. that is set alongside footage of the spacecraft used by NASA over the years. It makes a good case for the possibility of some influence from somewhere. And in presenting the case of the Nazca lines, audiences are presented a graphic illustration as part of the argument for its link to extraterrestrials that will definitely have some audiences talking. A CG graphic is shown, illustrating the efforts that would had to have been taken in terms of blasting, etc. to make the mountaintop “landing strip” become a reality. Seeing first hand what was being explained makes the amount of work really mind boggling especially considering how long ago the landing strip and figures around it were crafted. The illustrations incorporated into this season’s episodes make them just as interesting in their own right, too. The end result of the collective illustrations, the arguments and theories themselves is a group of episodes that is a solid extension of Ancient Aliens and a series that has the potential to stand on its own two feet in the long run. It is a group of episodes that any sci-fi fan and UFO enthusiast will happily welcome into their own home DVD library.

Whether it be for the theories familiar and new to audiences, the arguments tied in to the theories or the video and graphics used to illustrate said arguments and theories, all three elements noted make In Search of Aliens a collection of episodes that any sci-fi fan and UFO enthusiast will want to see at least once. The episodes included in this season re-introduce the topics covered through the current eight season-run of Ancient Aliens. The theories and arguments within each episode are sure to create their own share of discussion among skeptics and true believers alike. And the combination of graphics and video used to illustrate each theory and argument helps to advance each episode even more, thus keeping audiences engaged. The combination of all of the noted elements makes this collection a welcome addition to the library of any sci-fi fan and UFO enthusiast regardless of whether or not it gets picked up for a second season. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online at More information on this and other series from History and H2 is available online at:




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Dinosaur 13 Is 2015’s First Great Documentary

Courtesy:  CNN Films/Lionsgate

Courtesy: CNN Films/Lionsgate

CNN Films and Lionsgate released their new documentary Dinosaur 13 last week.  The documentary, which focuses on the real life fight between a group of paleontologists, an unscrupulous land owner, and the federal government, is the first great documentary of 2015.  The story presented here is a real life story.  Yet it is so gripping that it could just as easily have come right from a Hollywood script.  It is the central reason for the documentary’s success and enjoyment.  The legal information that makes up so much of the case is another reason for its success.  Audiences aren’t left scratching their heads trying to make sense of why Sue’s bones and those of so many other dinosaurs were taken from the Black Hills Institute.  The end result is a powerful, eye-opening look at government over reach and greed.  Rounding out the reasons for the documentary’s success is its bonus featurette “The Continuing Story of Sue.”  This featurette takes audiences behind the scenes of the preparations taken by those at Chicago’s Field Museum.  It is good to see that despite the events of Dinosaur 13, those at The Field Museum took care of Sue in preparation for her debut.  It’s bittersweet to think that Pete Larson was not invited to Sue’s debut.  But it is good to see in this featurette the level of care taken to give her the proper debut as perhaps Larson would have wanted.  The combination of this bonus featurette, the legal explanations throughout the documentary and the documentary’s story itself collectively show why Dinosaur 13 is a documentary that everybody should see at least once.

Dinosaur 13 is the first great documentary of 2015.  The documentary’s story is a real life story.  But there is no denying that its David versus Goliath style story plays out like one of Hollywood’s classic David versus Goliath style works.  It follows the battle between the Black Hills Institute, a conniving landowner named Maurice Williams, and the federal government for the institute’s dinosaur remains.  At the heart of it all is the battle for Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Sue is known to be the most complete T. Rex skeleton ever discovered.  When Pete Larson and his co-workers at the Black Hills Institute thought that they had legally bought Sue from Williams, they dug up her remains—which proved to be roughly eighty percent complete—and took them back to the institute.  From there things take a bleak turn very fast as the federal government swoops in with a large force of FBI agents and soldiers.  The agents and soldiers take away Sue and many other remains kept at the institute claiming that they were all recovered illegally yet never fully proving its case.  The story that follows is told clearly and concisely right to its bittersweet ending which ultimately sees Pete Larson—who headed up the expedition for Sue—and the institute win out, unearthing no fewer than nine more T.Rex skeletons after Sue.  The story in whole is gripping both for its content and its emotional impact.  It will have audiences fully engaged from start to finish and rooting for the underdog Black Hills staff even through its trials and tribulations.  It’s just one way that Dinosaur 13 proves to be such an impressive work.

The story presented in Dinosaur 13 is itself more than enough reason that it succeeds so well.  The story is told in a clear, concise, and timely fashion.  It makes the story easy to follow and in turn gripping both in itself and emotionally.  Helping to make the story even more impressive is the fact that much of the legal jargon used in the court cases is explained in layman’s terms.  Audiences get simplified explanations of why the feds thought that Pete Larson and the rest of the Black Hills staff illegally unearthed not only Sue but other remains that were stored at the institute.  The discussion on public land versus private land and land held in trust helps audiences understand the government’s view of things as well as that of the institute in regards to where they dug.  The catch is that as much as these concepts are clarified, it goes to show the greed and overreach of the government at least in the case of Sue.  It definitely doesn’t support the government’s argument claiming that Sue was essentially “real estate.”  If anything those explanations alone show the ambiguity of the government’s definitions and how it abuses that ambiguity to this day to take people’s land at its own whim.  The circular explanation of how the court came to its sentencing of Larson and his fellow staffers makes even more of a case in support of the institute.  It shows even more how ludicrous the charges against Larson and company were then and still are to this day.  It’s one more way that the legal explanations offered throughout Dinosaur 13 add to its enjoyment and prove yet again why it is the first great documentary of 2015.

The clear and concise story presented in Dinosaur 13 and the legal explanations offered throughout go a long way toward proving why it is the first great documentary of 2015.  The bonus featurette “The Continuing Story of Sue” is the presentation’s anchor. It rounds out the presentation proving once and for all why everyone should see this documentary at least once regardless of their interest in dinosaurs or lack thereof. “The Continuing Story of Sue” presents to audiences the painstaking efforts to get Sue ready for her debut at The Field Museum in Chicago. It is something of a fitting finale for the story as it shows the delicacy and seriousness with which those at The Field Museum took their task. At one point in the main program, Peter Larson made note that he was glad to see Sue go to The Field Museum so that she could be seen and cared for by those at the museum. Larson would be proud to see the care taken by those at the museum to prepare her for her debut. In a sense, it sort of indirectly pays tribute to Larson and his group as it shows that those at the museum carried on what he started. It’s just too bad that Larson was not invited to Sue’s debut. That aside, that final statement makes, again, for a fitting postscript to a documentary that is destined to be on any critic’s list of the year’s best new documentaries by year’s end.

Dinosaur 13 is on the surface a documentary about the fight for a dinosaur. But beneath that, it is so much more. It is a story about one small group’s fight against a seemingly immovable object that is the federal government. It is a story about one man’s dream realized and denied all in one thanks to that immovable object. Thanks to clear, concise storytelling, clarifications of all of the case’s legal terminology, and the postscript that is “The Continuing Story of Sue,” Dinosaur 13 proves to be one of the most gripping and in-depth documentaries and human dramas to come along in some time. It is without a doubt, one of the best new documentaries of 2015 and a must see by everyone regardless of their interest in dinosaurs. It is available in stores now on DVD/Digital combo pack and Blu-ray/Digital HD combo pack. The Blu-ray/Digital combo pack can be ordered online direct from Lionsgate’s online store at More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:



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Make A Bet, Enter For A Chance To Win “A Bet’s A Bet” From Phil’s Picks

Courtesy:  Cinedigm

Courtesy: Cinedigm

Independent movie and television studio Cinedigm will release its new rom-com A Bet’s A Bet next Tuesday, January 20th. And one lucky person will win a copy of the movie on DVD for free courtesy of Phil’s Picks this Friday, January 16th. Anyone that wants to enter for a chance at a free copy of the movie just needs to go to the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at, “Like” it, and then write on the page that they want to be entered for a chance to win the movie.   It’s that easy. A review of the movie is available online now via the Phil’s Picks blog at

A Bet’s A Bet, which also goes by the title The Opposite Sex, is an independent release. But it boasts a superstar cast. Daytime Emmy© Award winner Jennifer Finnigan (The Bold and the Beautiful, Tyrant) co-directed and co-starred with Jonathan Silverman (Weekend at Bernie’s, Weekend at Bernie’s II, Close to Home). Kristin Chenoweth (Rio 2, Stranger Than Fiction, Glee) makes an appearance early on in the movie. Also on board are Josh Hopkins (G.I. Jane, Cougar Town, The Perfect Storm) opposite lead star Geoff Stults (She’s Out Of My League, Wedding Crashers, The Break-Up). Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live, Kenan & Kel, All That) appears in a supporting role along with Dana Ashbrook (Twin Peaks, Dawson’s Creek, Crash) and Josh Cooke (I Love You, Man, Hart of Dixie, Manhattan). Debra Jo Rupp (That 70s Show, She’s Out of My League, Big) makes an appearance as Vince’s (Geoff Stults) secretary. And Eric Roberts (The Expendables, The Dark Knight, The Cable Guy), brother of actress Julia Roberts, stars as Vince’s boss Mr. Campbell. Even former N’Sync member Joey Fatone makes a cameo as a delivery man. Actress Mena Suvari (Chicago Fire, American Beauty, Six Feet Under) rounds out the cast as Vince’s love interest. It is her relationship with Vince that serves as the basis for the movie’s script.

The script behind A Bet’s A Bet centers on high-powered divorce attorney Vince (Stults) and his budding relationship with equally strong-willed divorcee Jane (Suvari). Vince is a self-proclaimed bachelor for life who is more focused on sleeping with every woman that he can get. On the other side of things, Jane is going through a nasty divorce. When the pair is introduced through a couple of mutual friends who just happened to be married, a series of hilarious bets plays out. The end result is a budding relationship that neither expected as both Vince and Jane are such headstrong characters. Jane’s own divorce case plays a role in the pair’s growing relationship, too. It offers its own share of laughs as audiences will see in watching the movie.

A Bet’s A Bet (The Opposite Sex) will be available on DVD next Tuesday, January 20th. It will retail for $14.93. It runs ninety-seven minutes counting end credits. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, and giveaways from Phil’s Picks, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, and giveaways in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Old School Action Flick Fans Will Enjoy Lionsgate’s Latest Expendables Outing

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s new action flick The Expendables 3 is one of the best new movies of 2014. The third installment in the studio’s fan favorite franchise, it held its own quite well against the rest of the annual summer blockbusters that filled theaters this year. While it might not have exactly performed as expected domestically in theaters, those numbers mean nothing. The only reason that it didn’t pull in the numbers of its counterparts from Marvel Studios and others is that it didn’t have the notoriety of those properties. This is despite the fact that it was front loaded with some of the greatest names in the world of action flicks. That in itself is actually one of the reasons that audiences who haven’t yet seen this movie will enjoy it. It will be discussed later. The central reason for the movie’s enjoyment is its writing. This includes the movie’s story and its dialogue. Both elements are classic action flick elements in every sense of the word. Together, they make for plenty of reason for every lover of the action genre to watch The Expendables 3. The acting on the part of the cast adds even more reason for audiences to check out this throwback to Hollywood’s golden era of action flicks. Last of note to the movie’s positive is its pacing. The movie’s run time is just over two hours. To be precise, it is listed at two hours and six minutes. Over the course of that time, the story’s pacing rarely lets up. The rare times when it does it is only in moments that help to advance the story. The end result of that solid pacing coupled with the cast’s wholly entertaining acting and the movie’s writing overall is a movie that is one more great trip down memory lane for any fan of classic action flicks. In turn it proves itself to justifiably be one of the best new movies of 2014.

The Expendables 3 is, on the surface, just one more sequel among seemingly countless others churned out over the course of 2014. While few if any of the sequels thrown out there this year were really worth seeing, Lionsgate’s The Expendables 3 is an exception to that rule. This movie is a fun outing for any lover of action movies. It is especially so for anyone that grew up in the golden age of action flicks. It proves to be so fun thanks in large part to its writing. At the heart of the movie’s writing is the movie’s story. The movie’s story is a time honored element that any classic action flick fan will appreciate. It sees Barney and his team having to hunt down former Expendables co-founder turned bad guy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) for war crimes. Believe it or not, this is something from which writers seem to have increasingly strayed in the current era of film making. Whether it be action flicks, dramas, or otherwise, writers today seem to be trying to outdo one another in who can churn out the most convoluted and overly busy script possible. It’s nice to see that lead actor Sylvester Stallone and co-writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedict were able to work together and keep the story behind this movie so simple. It’s also nice to see other classic elements incorporated into the story such as the script’s dialogue.

The story that was crafted by Stallone, Rothenberger, and Benedict is a full-on old school action flick story. The story itself isn’t all that’s old school about the trio’s script. The dialogue that is incorporated into the script is a throwback in itself. There are classic one-liners peppered throughout the course of the movie’s run time. And then there is also Stonebanks’ equally classic soliloquy explaining his motives for having gone rogue. Conrad explains that he joined the bad guys’ side because of his hatred for the people that sent The Expendables to clean up their messes and the human cost associated with said missions. That is within itself another throwback. It is a throwback to so many classic action movie villains before. Considering the classic action flick dialogue and the equally classic story line that are used in The Expendables 3’s script, one can’t help but make a slight comparison to another movie released this year. The movie in question is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The reason for the aside is that where that movie teased old school Ninja Turtles fans with references to their childhood favorite series and movies, The Expendables 3 has done the exact opposite, which is why TMNT failed and The Expendables 3 succeeded even if it didn’t do as well as hoped at the box office. It didn’t tease audiences with references to the golden era of action movies or the action movies that some audiences grew up with. It goes for the jugular, giving audiences of all ages another example of what once made action movies so great and what can still make them great again.

As if the direct throwbacks to the action genre’s old days wasn’t enough for audiences, there is one more element to the script that solidifies its success. That element is the commentary on the place of the classic action star in today’s movie market. At one point, the commentary makes for some great self deprecating humor with the younger members of the team throwing out verbal barbs at the team’s older members and vice versa. At another point before that, Barney ruminates on the place of himself and his team mates in their line of work. This is in essence the other side of that discussion on whether or not the old school action star still has a place in today’s action movies. It is a rather interesting moment especially when juxtaposed against the more light-hearted moment that later follows. The ultimate revelation is that there is and always will be a place for action stars of the past and of the future in today’s world of action flicks. Stallone and company don’t come right out and say it with these moments. But it’s pretty obvious that this existential discussion of sorts is what they were using. It just so happened that it worked both as its own discussion and as part of the story in whole, too. And it is a nice addition to the movie’s script. Together with the previously noted factors, it helps to prove once and for all why the writing behind The Expendables 3 is the most important aspect to the movie. While it is the most important aspect of the movie’s success, it isn’t the only factor that makes the movie enjoyable for lovers of real action flicks. The work of the cast in terms of its acting is just as notable to the movie’s enjoyment.

The writing behind The Expendables 3 is a solid foundation for the movie’s success. Resting just as easily on that foundation is the cast’s acting. The cast’s acting is just as enjoyable as the writing. Watching Barney (Stallone) and Hunter (Schwarzenegger) go was itself like watching a time capsule being opened up. At no one point do either of the duo’s portrayals feel forced. And even Drummer (Harrison Ford) is entertaining in a supporting role. Audiences that grew up watching Ford as Indiana Jones and Han Solo will be pleased that Ford wasn’t entirely relegated to the back burner in his role. And Blade himself, Wesley Snipes was just as entertaining in his portrayal of Doc. Watching Doc is just like Watching Blade, especially early on when he is first broken off of the train. While the performances by Snipes, Ford, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger were each impressive in their own right, it is Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Stonebanks that is most notable. Gibson has his own experience in the action realm. But his portrayal here is peculiar. That’s not to say that Gibson did a bad job. Rather, he walks a fine line throughout the movie. He never really goes full classic, hammy action movie villain. Nor does he go the route of say Heath Ledger’s Joker a la The Dark Knight or any other villain. It’s almost like he tried to really channel certain classic action movie villains and those of recent years all into one for his portrayal. While a little bit uneasy, the end result is still a villain that remains believable enough. And set against Stallone and the rest of his team, Stonebanks becomes even more entertaining. The rest of the team is just as enjoyable in its own right. But it really is these core actors that make the acting in The Expendables 3 so enjoyable and an important part of the movie’s enjoyment.

The writing and acting that went into The Expendables 3 are both important in their own right to the movie’s overall success and enjoyment. The last element that makes the movie work as well as it does is the movie’s pacing. Over the course of the movie’s two hour run time, the movie rarely lets up. The only time at which it slows even slightly is when Barney is telling his team mates about breaking up the team. Even in a later moment when they–Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Doc (Wesley Snipes), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture)–sit ruminating on the development, the pacing doesn’t let up. It would have been so easy to go over the top with this moment. But Stallone and his co-writers don’t allow that to happen. They keep the story moving, allowing for the bulk of the story to be spent on its more important moments. And it is because of this that the movie never loses a step. Because it never loses a step, it allows for more enjoyment of the cast’s acting and of the elements incorporated into the movie’s script. It connects everything, making the movie complete and proving once more why it stands out proudly among Hollywood’s current forgettable crop of prequels, sequels, and remakes.

Hollywood’s current crop of prequels, sequels, and remakes is largely forgettable. They are movies that were churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five studios more for the sake of making money than actually entertaining audiences. The Expendables 3 is not one of those movies. It has proven through the combination of its in depth writing, the acting by its cast, and its pacing, that it actually sets out both to make money and to entertain audiences. It succeeded in both areas thanks to its global ticket sales total and despite being largely covered up by the rest of the blockbusters churned out this summer. Those flash-in-the-pan flicks will largely be forgotten. But this modern blast from the past is one that every true lover of action flicks will remember and want to watch again and again proving once and for all why it is one of the best new movies of 2014.

The Expendables 3 is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered on DVD + Digital via Lionsgate’s online store at More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at:



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MLB World Series Takes Top Honors In The Phil’s Picks 2014 List Of Best New Box Sets For Grown-Ups

The days are officially ticking away to the end of another year. That means that all of the critics out there are now putting out their annual “Best Of” lists. This critic is still working on some of those lists while others are official. The jury’s still out on some right now such as the year’s Best New Documentaries, Independent Movies, Re-Issues, and Best New Movies overall. The lists for all the new music are still in the works, too. So while those lists are being completed, Phil’s Picks offers to everyone to start off the year, a look at the Top 10 Best New Box Sets for Grown-Ups. This year’s list is capped by a box set featuring the entire 2014 World Series, courtesy of Lionsgate, A&E Home Video, and MLB Productions. Also on this year’s list are some blasts from the past and some imports from our neighbors across the pond, and one surprise entry in the Honorable Mention list. The box sets’ packaging, bonus material and more were collectively taken into account in building this (and the other lists to come). Only 15 titles total could make the list. So there were some that didn’t make the list such as the sixth and seventh seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation on Blu-ray or the full six-season run of Ancient Aliens among others. It goes without saying that this was not an easy list to build. But it feels right. So without further ado, here is the list of 2014’s Top 10 New Box Sets For Grown-Ups.

2014 Best New Box Sets For Grown-Ups

1. 2014 MLB World Series Collector’s Edition

2. Endeavour: Series 2

3. Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series

4. The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crackups

5. The Dean Martin Show: Fully Roasted

6. The Roosevelts

7. Inspector Lewis: Series 7

8. Psych: The Complete Series

9. Secret Agent (A.K.A. Danger Man): The Complete Series

10. The Wonder Years: Season 1

Honorable Mention

11. The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years–1951 – 1955

12. The Almighty Johnsons: Season 1

13. Hell on Wheels: Season 3

14. The Definitive WWI & WWII Collection

15. I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 (BD Re-Issue)

Tomorrow, Phil’s Picks looks into the list of the year’s best new box sets for Children and Families. Stay tuned! To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Life Of Crime Is Anything But The Standard Crime Drama

Courtesy:  Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions/Hyde Park Entertainment/Image Nation/Starstream Entertainment/Abbolita Productions/The Gotham Group

Courtesy: Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions/Hyde Park Entertainment/Image Nation/Starstream Entertainment/Abbolita Productions/The Gotham Group

Lionsgate’s new drama Life Of Crime is an interesting movie.  The movie, which is based on author Elmore Leonard’s book The Switch is the polar opposite of all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes being churned out by Hollywood’s ‘Power Five” studios today.  It stands out completely from everything else on theaters and in the realm of home entertainment primarily because of its story.  The story centers on the kidnapping of a woman that is married to a rather unpleasant man by two ex-cons, one of which just got out of jail.  That aspect is discussed in the movie’s bonus features.  So it will be touched on later.  The story though, is rather interesting in that it doesn’t necessarily turn out the way that audiences might think.  In fact it actually turns the classic crime story a bit on its ear as audiences will see.  Another reason that the movie works as well as it does is the acting on the part of the cast.  The cast’s acting really serves to highlight the character development that takes place over the course of the movie’s near two-hour run time.  Last but not least of note in this recent release is the movie’s bonus material.  The behind-the-scenes featurette and the discussion on how the movie came to be adapted from Leonard’s book both shed their own light on the movie, making the whole viewing experience all the richer.  That isn’t to take away from the movie’s bonus commentary.  It serves its own purpose in the grand scheme of things, too.  The end result is a movie that while it definitely walks off the beaten path is well worth the watch if only once.

Life of Crime is a welcome respite from all of the prequels, sequels, and remakes currently being churned out by Hollywood’s “Power Five” studios.  The central reason for this is its script.  While adapted from author Elmore Leonard’s book The Switch, it stays true to the source material, as audiences will learn in watching the movie’s bonus material.  The story centers on the kidnapping of well-to-do wife Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston).  Mickey is kidnapped by two ex-cons named Louis (John Hawkes—American Gangster, The Sessions, Lincoln) and Ordell (Yasiin Bey a.k.a. Mos Def—The Italian Job, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, 16 Blocks).  The pair originally sets out to kidnap her and extort $1 million from her husband Frank (Tim Robbins—The Shawshank Redemption, The Hudsucker Proxy, Mystic River).  There’s just one problem.  He is getting ready to file for divorce unbeknownst to both her and her captors.  As things progress, a friendship of sorts forms between Mickey and Louis.  On the other end, Ordell ends up with Frank’s mistress Melanie (Isla Fisher—Now You See Me, Rango, Wedding Crashers).  Considering all of this, one would think that the movie is a comedy.  But that isn’t the case.  Writer/Director Daniel Schecter took the story in a more dramatic direction, again staying true to the source material.  The only way that this is a bad thing is the story’s pacing.  It does tend to drag somewhat as the story progresses.  But it is still a story worth at least one watch despite this.

The story on which Life of Crime is centered is an important reason that audiences should give this movie at least one watch.  Again as Writer/Director Daniel Schecter notes in the movie’s bonus material, he wanted to stay true to the movie’s source material. That’s because, as he notes, he didn’t like all of the movies that changed the story in its adaptation from its source material.  The story itself would be nothing without a cast to carry out the story.  And the movie’s cast does quite the job of bringing the story to life.  Their interpretation of Schecter’s script makes up for the story’s issues with pacing.  Audiences will love the fact that Aniston’s Mickey is such a strong female lead.  This goes back to the fact that the story turns the typical crime drama genre on its ear.  Mickey isn’t afraid to stand up to her captors, which is what leads to her budding friendship with Louis.  Women especially will cheer as Mickey uses a lit cigarette to burn Richard (Mark Boone, Jr.) in his eye.  Her overall interactions with Louis and Ordell display so much character development throughout the story.  That mix of development and interaction will pull in audiences with ease and keep them engaged right to the end again despite the story’s pacing issue.  It’s one more way in which Life of Crime stands out from all of the other major blockbuster prequels, sequels, and remakes currently out there and that are on the way.  It still is not the last factor that makes the movie work, either.  The last factor that makes Life of Crime work as well as it does is the movie’s bonus material.

The last factor involved in Life of Crime’s home release is the bonus material included in the movie’s Blu-ray/Digital HD release.  The bonus behind-the-scenes featurette itself offers quite a bit of insight into the movie.  That insight includes the thoughts on the movie’s source material from both the cast and director.  Aniston also has the chance to discuss her character’s portrayal to some length in the behind-the-scenes featurette.  The companion featurette entitled “Envisioning The Big Picture: Shooting Crime” allows Schecter to discuss his reasoning for staying as close as possible to Leonard’s original book in adapting it and the surprise that Leonard actually liked Schecter’s script for his adaptation.  There is much more discussed in both features.  And audiences will find in taking in the rest of those discussions, they add even more interest to Life of Crime in whole.  The same can be said of the movie’s bonus commentary from Schecter and actor Will Forte (Saturday Night Live) who plays a slightly overbearing man trying to win over Mickey throughout the movie.  The end result of all of these discussions is a viewing experience that makes Life of Crime even more a story worth at least one watch.

Whether it be for the story, the acting on the part of the cast or the movie’s companion bonus material, every one of these factors plays an integral role in the overall success and enjoyment of Life of Crime.  All three factors together make it an unsuspecting and rather interesting work worth at least one watch and a potential candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of this year’s best new independent movies.  Life of Crime is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct through Lionsgate’s online store at  More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:



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